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University of Southampton invests £3 million in UK’s most powerful university-owned supercomputer

Published: 
30 July 2009

World-class research at the University of Southampton is getting a multi-million pound boost with the purchase of a new supercomputer, built using IBM iDataPlex server technology and capable of over 74 trillion calculations per second.

The new supercomputer, containing more than 8000 processors, will be used by leading-edge researchers across the University to make highly complex computations in fields ranging from cancer research to climate change. It will be the first IBM System iDataPlex in a UK university and one of the 100 most powerful supercomputers in the world (based on the June 2009 Top 500 list at www.top500.org).

“The University of Southampton is one of the UK’s leading research universities and one of the top 100 in the world. To ensure that we remain at the cutting-edge of research, we must invest in the best facilities for our research staff,” comments the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Philip Nelson.

“This significant investment will ensure that our researchers have computing facilities to rival the best in the world.”

The computer, which was custom-designed and will be built, rapidly implemented and configured for the University by UK high-performance computer and storage integrator OCF plc (www.ocf.co.uk), has a capability equivalent to around 4,000 standard office computers, running simultaneously.

It will greatly assist the University’s medical researchers. Geneticist Professor Andrew Collins comments: “We need extremely high levels of computing power in our work mapping the disease genes implicated in breast cancer and glaucoma. With the volume of genome data increasing hugely each year, its analysis requires the most highly-sophisticated facilities.”

One of the key engineering groups using the computer will be the University Technology Centre for Computational Engineering, where director Professor Andy Keane and colleagues will be using its power to improve the design of aero engines and aircraft.

Other major users will be researchers in the University’s Complex Systems Simulation Doctoral Training Centre, which carries out high-quality, sophisticated simulations in research areas such as climate, pharmaceuticals, bioscience, nanoscience, medical and chemical systems, transport, the environment, engineering and computing.

"Using these new facilities we will see simulation modelling used to drive the design of new drugs tested on simulated organisms, to shape our response to climate change, to redesign our transport systems, and even to explore the origins of life on earth. The quality of simulations such as these is becoming crucial in the modern world," says the Centre's director Dr Seth Bullock.

The University and OCF signed their contract in July 2009. IBM will receive £1.8m from its sale into OCF.

Notes for editors

About the supercomputer

The hardware includes:

- IBM System x™ iDataPlex™ servers - first public sector use of iDataPlex in the UK.

- The innovative, half-depth form factor reduces the airflow required across the components, lowering the power needed for cooling, whilst providing twice the number of servers in the same space as a standard 42u rack.

- Rear door of iDataPlex has built-in heat exchanger which uses water to cool the expelled heat before it enters the data centre, making it more environmentally-friendly to use than standard air conditioning alone.

- Equivalent of 26 normal racks; 1000 nodes; 2000 Intel Quad Core Processors = 8000 cores; 100 TB storage using IBM DS4700

- It will use Cluster Resources Adaptive HPC Suite to provide, on demand, a mixed Linux and Windows workload.

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